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The Peninsula

Bipartisan Consensus on Economic Priorities

Published May 23, 2022

On May 3, the Yoon Suk-yeol administration announced its 6 broad visions that will guide its policymaking over the next five years. These include (1) policy and legal reforms, (2) economic growth, (3) welfare, (4) education and innovation, (5) security, and (6) regional developments.

Digging into their subcomponents, there are several continuities between Yoon’s vision and those of his predecessors from both sides of the political aisle. In particular, the new conservative president’s focus on invigorating Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) echoes the messaging employed by the progressive Moon Jae-in administration. And Moon’s emphasis on elevating the competitiveness of SMEs appears to follow the lead of the conservative Park Geun-hye administration’s efforts to encourage innovation in SMEs and startups.

There are sizable differences in how the two sides look to intervene in the market, but a broad bipartisan consensus exists around the centrality of SMEs and the importance of ensuring a fair marketplace for them vis-à-vis flagship conglomerates like Samsung and Hyundai. This convergence may be a natural byproduct of Korea’s market composition, where 99.9% of businesses are SMEs and 82.7% of the entire workforce are employed at SMEs.

The growing polarization might have drawn voters to the polls, and it has contributed to the 2022 presidential election being a contest between “the most unlikeable candidates.” However, as visions and policy tasks announced by successive presidents show, partisanship has not created significant differences in which economic actors are identified as most critical to generating economic dynamism. This is also consistent with the broader analysis of polarization in South Korea that suggests that the majority of the population is occupied with bread and butter issues.

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of  David Lee, Sarah Marshall, and Mai Anna Pressley. Picture from the flickr account of The Republic of Korea.

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